“What’s wrong with me?” Or, 3 Seconds on Regret.

Via elephant journal
on Dec 28, 2009
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scott zelda

The scariest question of ’em all.

A friend of mine, lovely, stylish, smart, educated…hasn’t had a serious relationship since she was 20. She and I got to talking awhile back, at some dinner party or bar, and she talked about how it was nearly impossible for her to silence that insistent “What’s wrong with me?”

I shrugged and grimaced. Seemed hard to make her feel better without sounding patronizing. Yet, fact is, she’s amazing. So I tried being frank. “Yah, 10 years is a looong time. But look, you’re wonderful, attractive, smart…the only thing wrong with you is that you think something is wrong with you…that you don’t have enough of what they call lungta in Buddhism or head and shoulders in Winston Churchill-speak.”


Growing up, my mom would tell me how Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, my parents’ Buddhist teacher (at least until they divorced, and my Old Man became a Jew for Jesus, briefly) would say that regret was great. Looking backward was invaluable. It helps you see problems, and then go forward in a new way.

But then he said “regret is great…for three seconds. Then…move on!” Fresh start.

I’m newly single, since right before Halloween, and have gone on some dates. Dating is exciting, full of insecurity and fun, both. Being single is like opening the windows in the winter and feeling the fresh, too cold air. It’s nice…and it’s not.

Asking boys or girls out is full of what Buddhists call hope and fear, two sides of the same coin called samsara (cyclical habitual suffering). I find I’m often less myself, asking a girl out, than in just about any other area of my life. It’s interesting practice—and thank god for my meditation practice, or I’d take it all pretty seriously and try and figure it out.

Now, I’ll try and be discreet, here, since my ex-girl and others may read this, and I don’t want to speak out of school. But suffice it to say that I’m 35, and because I killed elephant magazine and have taken the last year to rebuild it online, I’m farrrrr from ready to settle down and have a family. I can’t even pay my {you name it}. So, while I build elephantjournal.com and our Walk the Talk Show up, for the next few years, I’ll likely be single, a merry workaholic, traveling a bit to green and yoga conferences and such.

That all sounds nice, but fact is life for a bachelor is sometimes lonely. You eat cold (organic) nachos at home with your warm (rescue) dog, four nights a week. If one had more money, one would go out more, travel more, but as it is you have a good, solid, reasonably fun and thoroughly fortunate life, and Boulder is a helluva lottery ticket of a town to get stuck in for the past 7.5 years as I’ve built, destroyed, and am rebuilding the elephant media community. Live in Boulder? Got a bike? You’re all set to enjoy life.

This week, I asked a girl out who, while too young for me was mature, together, fun. (Boulder is full of college and grad school ladies, but most 25-30 year olds are more career oriented, and therefore live out in them there big cities…Denver, LA, SF, NYC etc. Then, there’s a ton of 30-40 year olds, but most of them have families or are ready to have them. This may sound impolitic as a generalization, which thank god that’s all it is, but it’s also a universally accepted fact among my brothers).

After a series of texts, she said, sorry sucker, not interested. It was something of a surprise, but I shrugged it off. Still, a voice came out of the soup of my otherwise pragmatic mind…

“What’s wrong with me?”

“What am I doing wrong? Am I out of shape? Too speedy? Not charming or confident enough? Not as cool as that guy over there with that woman…” Etcetera. Fill in your own doubts. Fact is, we allll have our shortcomings. And yes, we need to work on some of them (and some, we just need to breathe in, and out, and accept ourselves as we are).

I broke it down for a girl-friend today over lunch at Salt like this:

“Folks think I’m a ladies’ man. I wish. I ask out some girls over the course of two months, say 70% have boyfriends. Most of the good ones do. The other 30%, maybe you go out, but at most one or two will turn out to be a good fit, socially, character-wise (ie, you like each other, are comfortable, have fun, relaxed). That’s if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, and lately the Vegas of my Love Life has been sweeping the table, you’re alone.

Alone is basically good. It’s square one. Home base. Loneliness is our first and last true friend. We’re not talking a hard, brittle, self-pitying or proud sort of loneliness. The kind of loneliness my Buddhist tradition teaches me to befriend is raw, red, open, awkward, sweet, cheerful, and in love with life.

So: Happy New Year’s! I’ll be going stag, in my killer new vintage thrift-bought tux. Bought it for $21, tailoring cost $35, that’s a deal.


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18 Responses to ““What’s wrong with me?” Or, 3 Seconds on Regret.”

  1. Subu says:

    Oh boy. If you have trouble, what chance do I have? I'm just glad I have my (yes, rescue!) dog and football to keep life interesting… 🙂

  2. ACB says:

    single, lonely yoga enthusiast here with rescue dog. Good to hear that there are others with similar stories.

  3. Boulder Female says:

    Been around Boulder for years… Never heard you referred to as a ladies man. In your dreams, bud.

  4. Greg says:

    Friends of mine hosted Trungpa when he first arrived in Boulder. I met him in the first month. So your parents must be Boulder contemporaries of mine.

    Loved your thought exercise on issues of self value — tied to wanting to be wanted and issues of rejection. These are core Buddhist precepts — prolonged meditation on these factors can be extremely rewarding.

    The challenge is being able to take and hold the detached third person view while at the same time viewing the first person emotional stream tied to desired affinity and rejected affinity.

    Meditating on this can practically blow your head off but the peace that comes with getting beyond the duality can be sweet.

    Of course the only thing wrong with you, ultimately, is your attachment to samsara and the major build-up of karmic imprints that you (and I and everyone else) totes around as though it were a sack of gold. When we can learn to drop the gold in the mud, it gets better.

    An excellent meditation that unsticks the "what's wrong with me" thought is viewing times when we rejected others. If one thought being rejected carried a sting — wait until you dig into rejecting others. Ouch.

  5. Good! Not my dreams, it's a reputation to have to get over, not to feed.

  6. Oh, I give your kind, anonymous comment a thumbs up, Boulder Female.

  7. Great point. Reminds me of tonglen practice—exchanging self for others, which (finally) is what I tried to do, on the spot, while sitting in The Spot Climbing Gym, having just read that text. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2008/09/pema-chodr

    And, then, only today, got a message from another friend—that she'd love to go out. So spins the wheel of samsara.

    "Good and bad, happy and sad, all thought vanish into emptiness like the imprint of a bird in the sky." ~ Sadhana of Mahamudra.

  8. Tee says:

    And well done, you! on the thrift store tux. *swoon* A man after my own heart, with the qualities of being frugal, green, creative…will you wait for me? I'm not ready! lololol Just teasing, my friend. Blessings…kudos on the reusing. Truly.

  9. !

    Yah, vintage tuxes (whether on etsy, ebay or best from Thrift shops) are usually made far, far better than new, and more pricey ones. I should know–my old tux, which was bought new, fell apart after a few years.

  10. Just another example of the startling frankness that makes Elephant Journal so interesting and special.

    It'll all work out in the end.

    Bob Weisenberg

  11. Just another example of the startling frankness that makes Elephant Journal so interesting and special.

    It'll all work out in the end.

    Bob Weisenberg

  12. Update: since posting the above my attractive, lonely friend has been dating! And I've gone out on another dozen dates, literally…riding the waves of feeling good about myself, charming, gregarious…and feeling hopelessly lonely, left out of the apparent domestic bliss some of my dear friends share.

    That said, day to day, I continue to enjoy my fortunate life thoroughly, even with some pretty intense challenges, financially, over this past year. And I always have my best friend, Redford, my affable mutt. He cut his foot recently, and has been a very patient…patient.

  13. Tee says:

    My easing back into the dating world isn't exactly garnering any attention, Waylon. That has its pros and cons.

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  17. marimiasu says:

    My problem is that I don't know what to do…. At work there is no people and during my hobbies the same. When I go out I see cute guys but that's it, never take any action. I think I should start approaching them but… What should I say? I don't now them! And just saying… I don't drink so not really into the night life.

    People keep saying that I'll meet someone in the market where I go to buy my organic veggies but… We are just focus on getting a good deal not in meet people,

    I tried online dating site..it's not for me. I'm very social and I don't like technology in terms of communication

    It has been a year and 1/2 since I've Been attracted to someone

    What's wrong with me?? Please elephant journal help!